Maine residents can rest today, knowing that their Congressional delegation is busy ensuring our forests will continue to support communities, recreation, wildlife, the forestry industry and other uses that we all cherish. We can rest, because our delegation in Washington does not.

Sen. Olympia Snowe worked with her colleagues in New Hampshire, Vermont and North Carolina to lead an effort in support of funding for conservation and recreation through the Forest Legacy and Land and Water Conservation Fund Programs. They brought together a very diverse and bipartisan group of 46 senators to support $125 million for the Forest Legacy Program, $350 million for the federal LWCF, and $125 million for the state LWCF.

These programs are critical for conserving Maine’s working forests, national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges, and providing recreational opportunities in communities across the entire state. Snowe’s leadership was instrumental in garnering support from Republicans across the country for these programs that provide so much benefit here in Maine. And we’re thankful that Sen. Susan Collins has used her seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee to help close the deal for these programs and their use here in Maine.

Earlier this spring, a similar effort was taken in the U.S. House, which resulted in a request signed by 137 House members, including both of Maine’s representatives, Reps. Chellie Pingree and Michael Michaud, continuing a tradition begun by former Congressman Tom Allen, who spearheaded similar efforts during his tenure in the House.

Most recently, Maine’s two representatives were instrumental in strengthening the Climate and Energy Bill in the House so that it would support forests and forest-owners in Maine and across the country. Pingree drafted an amendment to the bill that created economic incentives for forestland owners who manage their forests to capture more carbon, and would provide billions of dollars to forestland owners in the coming years if they managed their forests sustainably.

Michaud joined Pingree and others from the Northern Forest and beyond supporting the effort and became a strong and heroic champion for forest owners, pushing hard all the way through the difficult process. When under attack, Michaud fought all the way to the White House and forced an extremely rare acknowledgement of the importance of forests on the floor of the House while the vote was being carried out.

Michaud stood for Maine’s forests and forest owners against attacks by one of the strongest members of the House, the chair of the Agriculture Committee, and deserves sincere thanks for it.

The Maine delegation doesn’t just support our use and enjoyment of forests; they’re active on many fronts to bring funding back home where communities, businesses and local government know best how to spend it. Michaud has led efforts of the Northern Forest’s House delegation, most recently in concert with Rep. Paul Hoes of New Hampshire, to ensure the Northern Border Regional Commission receives the funding it deserves to start improving the lives of people here in Maine.

Michaud worked to open the door for funding for the Northern Border Commission from the Economic Development Administration through the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act. Since then, he’s worked to make sure House appropriators know just how important to Maine and the Northern Forest this program really is.

Both of Maine’s senators have joined similar efforts to ensure this exciting new program will come to fruition and begin providing the benefits we expect. The commission will use a bottom-up approach to provide grants for economic development projects, natural resource conservation, technical assistance to the forest products industry, alternative energy projects, job training, infrastructure improvements and more.

Snowe also recently led, with Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, an effort to fund the new Community Wood Energy Program at $5 million to provide assistance to communities that convert heating systems from oil to wood-based systems, like biomass or wood pellet systems.

For a small state, Maine is blessed with leaders that put their care of the state and its people forward in strong and effective ways. People should realize that our senators and representatives are doing incredible work to ensure the state is able to effectively compete for the federal funding needed to keep us the forest-based success story we all cherish.

Bruce Clendenning is the Policy Director of the Northern Forest Alliance, a coalition of conservation, recreation and forestry organizations committed to the economic and ecologic future of the Northern Forest in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

Kit St. John is the Executive Director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

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